Tag Archive | "road tax"

Motoring Issues That Affect Us All

With the excellent news that car insurance premiums are starting to come down, the time has come to keep up the pressure of complaint. Naturally, we peace-loving folk at Motor Blogger do not advocate revolution but surely motorists must keep speaking up against those things which blight their lives. This is why (astonishing as it may seem) we have Members of Parliament – to speak on our behalf so maybe it is time to contact yours.

Drivers remain beset by unfair practices, sky-high costs and potentially dangerous roads. For years the average motorist has held his tongue but, and this is now apparent, increasingly we are beginning to speak up aided by sensible voices from the motoring organisations.

We already contribute a very large amount of money to the government’s coffers through taxation and duty. We contribute even more through over-zealously applied fines for very minor infractions. We have to fund repairs to our cars, often through expensive insurance companies, thanks to dangerous potholes and road surfaces that are increasingly becoming the norm.

Because of ‘cuts’ we now have so few traffic policemen that those who truly transgress on our roads often go unpunished yet unwary drivers are still – despite all the talk – subjected to unfair penalties and actions by unscrupulous parking companies or greedy councils.

What’s worse is the fact that the goalposts keep moving as if they’ve been erected on quicksand. A driver might buy a new car based on a zero road tax decision only to find the following year that his car has slipped into a tax paying status. Penalties are rising across the board. A motorist who fractionally over-steps the speed limit and is caught by a speed camera which has no decision making capabilities will pay the same fine as the speed merchant who drives badly at an accident black spot. Cameras should be about road safety.

Fuel costs too much and that is down to allegedly fiddled pricing and to successive governments increasing duty as an easy way to bolster their previously profligate spending. We didn‘t make the mess we‘re in. Car insurance remains too expensive, still partly due to fraudulent activities. Thankfully, we are now seeing some movement on this front.

Drivers are penalised for being drivers, it’s as simple as that. We are treated as a cash cow by authorities who seem to be bereft of fresh economic ideas. The groundswell is growing. Motoring organisations and magazines are lobbying the government about all these issues. Time to speak your mind – repeatedly if necessary.

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Local Government To Influence Your Choice Of New Car

In a surprise move that will enrage motorists everywhere, the Department of Transport has quietly announced that drivers in England will have to consult their local councils when the time comes to buy a new car. This new legislation slipped in under the radar as part of the extensive ‘Proposals for Local Growth’ plan, recently put forward by Lord Heseltine.

Car users in Scotland, Wales and NI will be unaffected – initially at least – presumably because the Westminster government is allowing them to decide for themselves in due course. The three additional parliaments may well follow suit although this has not been confirmed at this time.

Under the proposals, motorists will have to contact their local council to discuss the tax alternatives available to them which will be based on a variety of auto criteria. Specially trained ‘advisors’ will guide the new car buyer through the process of how the revenue for the Local Growth Road Surcharge, as it is to be known, will be collected.

This could be by way of a monthly addition to Council Tax payments or via a lien on salaries, for example. The exact amount will be calculated based on the number of seats, performance, CO² emissions and the Alcantara content of the chosen car’s interior. This last item is surprisingly included because the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has expressed deep concern about the, as they see it, persecution of the Alcantara population in the wild. They are suggesting the use of Draylon as an alternative material.

Unsurprisingly, spokespersons for the various motoring organisations were united in their condemnation of what they see as another assault on the hard-pressed motorist. In a statement they said “that once again, English drivers are being penalised for the simple pleasures of owning a car purely to maintain cash income for councillors”. The statement later referred to the fact that the Alcantaras used in the motor industry were all from especially reared farmed stock and that the creature is doing well in the wild.

In a further development, Motor Blogger has learned that local councillors and government officials are to be exempt from the new tax as part of civil service benefits. “The public just doesn’t understand”, a ministerial aid is quoted as saying, “that we do these things for their own good”. He went on to say “the additional revenue will be wisely spent on important local council initiatives although it is not expected to impact on the road repair budget”.

Councils are expected to roll out the experimental new system just in time for Christmas 2014.

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Road Charging Around The Corner

If after reading this you are lost for words and can’t find the right way to express your feelings, the words you are seeking are ‘blatant’ and ‘rip-off’. Add the expletive(s) of your choice.

This time it is road charging. Again. Rather than run the motorways and other main roads in an efficient manner on our behalf, the government believes it would be best for all of us if they were ‘leased’ to private companies. Obviously, these companies would want to be paid for this and we would accordingly be charged to use ‘their’ roads. Tolls, in other words.

This story has been doing the rounds for a while now and the government know they are in for some healthy resistance from motoring organisations, commercial vehicle operators and of course private motorists. As a consequence they are looking at ways to stitch us up differently and just now they are considering an annual one-off charge.

The first thought was to offset this by a partial reduction in vehicle excise duty but even they have realised that to do this would penalise those drivers who have purchased environment-friendly cars and pay little or no road tax. Back to the drawing board then as they try to come up with a formula that is ‘fair’.

The latest wheeze seems to be similar to that used in some other European countries. It is called the Vignette process. Road pricing charges are imposed on vehicles based on a period of time rather than distance or a collected toll. Even as you read this they are working towards a charging structure that is acceptable to companies and private vehicle owners. It may, for example, be based on a levy linked to the CO² output or even the weight of any given vehicle.

The government are going to publish a ‘consultation’ document in the next month or so. The Department for Transport have confirmed that they are undertaking feasibility studies for the private ownership of major routes and the attendant financial issues. They insist that no decision has been reached although, just like a shop-bought beef lasagne, you know there is going to be something in this process that you won’t like.

Motoring organisations are already calling this yet another tax on motorists and it is hard to argue with that assessment. We already pay fuel tax, vehicle excise duty and tolls on some roads and bridges; now it looks as if we are going to pay some more.

Of course, it is probably feasible to drive around Britain using just the quiet B-roads and byways that criss-cross the land but if we all do that then our country lanes will become gridlocked and they are already in a poor condition anyway. It simply beggars belief that ministers can continue to announce this sort of thing and not go red in the face with shame.

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Pothole Crisis Continues

Recent news has reported the planned second stage of the high-speed rail link to and from the North of England and the South. The cost is estimated to be in the order of £36 billion.

You just know, don’t you, that this figure will prove to be wildly optimistic – because they always are to make the deal more appealing – when the true amount will no doubt be very considerably more.

Still, it is not for us to debate the rights and wrongs of this here except to point out that Britain’s motorists will be justified in feeling a tad aggrieved when they are driving on roads not fit for purpose. The misery of roads that we, the tax paying car owners, have paid for over and over again goes on.

The blame is being placed in part on the way potholes are repaired. There has probably never been as good a use of the word ‘short-termism’ than when it is applied to pothole repairs. For years now those responsible have relied on cheap, brittle and porous Stone Mastic Asphalt rather than doing the job properly with hardwearing Hot Rolled Asphalt.

So, although the former is the cheaper option, the fact that the repair has be done over and over again means that the long-term cost probably isn’t much different. This penny-pinching gross underinvestment has left the UK with a backlog of pothole repairs and it is hard to see how this can be rectified without a major roads programme, which of course brings us full circle because it will probably never happen.

Government cuts will continue to leave councils short of the readies as they try to allegedly balance the books. In the meantime the potholes get deeper and more serious as time goes on. It is not as if this applies only to quieter B roads; the problem is becoming increasingly widespread on major routes and every time the work gangs turn up, traffic is slowed or even gridlocked whilst the repairs are carried out.

Our recent weather patterns haven’t helped with snow and heavy rain getting into the cracks and crevices of sloppily repaired road surfaces; freezing, thawing and lifting the surface. The only solution is to do the job properly once and for all which is what all of Britain’s drivers want as it will save them having to put in claims for damage to councils who could be spending the money on road repairs – and so it goes on. £36 billion ought to do it.

Never mind, if it becomes impossible to use the roads we’ve always got the railways to fall back on, especially as we’ll have the new high-speed line in a couple of decades time. You can use these trains instead – assuming you can afford the tickets.

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The Shame Of Britain’s Roads

The British government’s rail minister has been pilloried for refusing to commute from his Essex home on the railways because he prefers a chauffeur driven limo at your expense (est. cost £80k p.a.) instead. This is surprising because the roads in this country are in such a state that crossing the remote Himalayas on the back of an arthritic donkey seems like a more appealing prospect than driving from Chelmsford to London.

The roads in this country are, as you well know, in a poor state. The latest news is that, as the floods subside, more potholes than ever will be revealed as allegedly cash-strapped councils and the Highways Agency fail to keep up with the work of putting back that which nature removes. What’s worse is that some of the flooding has been so bad that whole sections of tarmac have been swept away meaning that road closures will be more common whilst the inevitable funding ‘issues’ are resolved.

Potholes are probably unavoidable (in both senses of the word) but better, more lasting repairs and improved road building techniques might help to alleviate the problem but that simply isn’t going to happen. The number of car-damaging craters is expected to rise to in excess of two million and the authorities can’t cope. It is a sorry state of affairs.

What has happened to our road infrastructure must be a bit of a joke around the world. Sparsely populated areas of Spain have far better road surfaces than us thanks to EU grants funded in part by British taxpayers, as any European traveller knows. Most of us are unlikely to ever be lucky enough to visit the more remote areas of mainland China but we now know that their roads are better than ours too.

We have been made aware of this by the Dongfeng Motor Corporation – China’s second biggest motor maker – who have been testing a prototype van over here because, they say, our roads are worse than theirs! Closer to home the Ford Motor Company have apparently surveyed a battered stretch of road near Basildon to enable them to build an artificial track in Belgium to better test the suspension on their cars. It would be funny if it were not true.

The Local Government Association have been quoted as saying that even when all the post-weather assessments have been made, repairs will still be delayed because we can’t afford it. Where is all the money that we pay out in road tax and sundry other motoring levies? Perhaps some of it is siphoned off to help fund our expensive rail network that ministers aren’t using? Whatever, it isn’t being spent where it should be, and that is maintaining a road network that right now would be derided in any so-called third world country.

The answer is of course to rent an under-used donkey from a sanctuary. It won’t be as fast of course but it may manage your commute to work without breaking its suspension.

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Paperless Motoring

Those old enough will remember that the introduction of personal computers heralded the dawn of the paperless society. As you well know by now that’s not quite how it has worked out. Thankfully, in the last few years, many organisations have decided that the internet is a good idea, hence our present ability to manage our lives online to a large extent. It’s great to be able to access all areas of bank accounts (only your own, of course) instantly, for example.

This is why over the last few years motorists have wondered why we still have those anachronistic tax discs disfiguring our windscreens when all the data about our cars are stored digitally and immediately available to any inquisitive policemen – and almost anybody else, or so it seems.

The good news is that someone at the Department for Transport has woken up to the fact that this isn’t such a bad idea. They see that the abolition of this ancient device is a good money saving wheeze down at the DVLA. We can already order and pay for the things online anyway, so once that’s done there should be no further need to prove it thanks to instant number plate recognition technology.

It doesn’t stop there. We already know that the paper section of our driving licences is being phased out in 2015. The same may happen at some point to the insurance certificates that we negotiate annually. Once it’s done and added to the burgeoning government file that is your life, the piece of paper serves no useful purpose.

So it’s all good then. Well, not entirely. Increasingly everybody we do business with wants us to do more and more for ourselves. One result of this is the rise of residents’ groups handling their own speed camera duties. This is one of the things that we pay the police for. Sadly there is now so few of them and those that are left have to spend all their time counting the revenue from safety awareness courses. It’s understandable that people would want to protect their village but it smacks rather of setting neighbour against neighbour. Now councils want us to join in by grassing up any potholes we find – saves them having to do routine inspections.

One of the plus points of paper motoring documents is that we can store them in a file and keep tabs on dates and costs. Without them we have no control and doesn’t even take into account the dilemma for those who can’t or don’t want to access the internet. On the other hand, if money is being saved on the costs of documentation surely we will all benefit from that with lower premiums and road tax costs when the saving is passed on? No.

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New Year, New War On Motorists

The French have an expression for it. No, not that one; this one – plus ça change. Effectively, the more things change the more they stay the same. Just because the Chancellor has bowed to pressure and not enforced the January 3p rise in petrol prices doesn’t mean that the heat is off motorists. Well, you didn’t seriously think that they wouldn’t find another way to rake in the cash, did you?

The Department For Transport will shortly consult ministers on the proposals to give English councils powers to fine drivers for an additional – wait for it – twenty six offences, previously the reserve of the boys in blue. 26! Right now they are limited to parking fines and bus lane encroachments but councils want so much more.

They want the millions that would come from many new fines to the order of roughly seventy quid a pop. If anybody thinks that this may not come to pass then remember that London councils have had these powers for years. The Shires want their piece of the action.

Inevitably, the usual specious arguments are put forward. The police have ‘insufficient resources’ to effectively govern the roads. It will ‘ease congestion’ and ‘keep traffic moving’, and so on. Of course, to introduce a bit of balance here, these aren’t new laws. It pertains to existing signage and regulation which would be much more rigorously enforced. As one council apparatchik points out – presumably in an holier-than-thou tone of voice – ‘…if nobody broke the law, the income would be zero’. The irritating thing is that he is right.

However, when the police stop and punish an errant driver they are upholding the law, which is what we pay them for. What is planned is the notion that civilian will police civilian and that’s a whole new ballgame. Neighbour versus neighbour.  The slightest transgression for which most ordinary coppers will let go with a stern warning will be zealously jumped on by council employees. There will be no excuses. Cameras will rule. Disobey any road sign – whether by accident or design – and that will be your lot. Accidentally shunt forward and end up stopped in a box junction – that’s £70 to you, chief: and so on. The big unanswerable question is where will it all end?

We all know the rules of the road and that’s already a done deal; but what new offences will be created? How about if a child in the back seat flicks something disgusting from his nose out of the window? Will you still be able to argue with your partner whilst in control of a motor vehicle? No doubt you could all come up with suggestions of your own. Just be careful who you suggest them to. Walls have ears. That’s all we’re saying.

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Goodbye Supercar

One of the latest crackpot ideas to come out of a government department is for a two tier road tax system. The idea is that, if you use motorways and major trunk roads, you pay more. If your motoring is confined to local minor roads you pay less. The flaw is obvious. Even the most local of local drivers will at some point find it necessary to use the posh roads.

This is so ill-conceived as to beggar belief. Fortunately it is only one of several suggestions that consider the future of the Vehicle Excise Duty. What’s really behind this is the government’s own policy. They’ve taxed motorists to the hilt and made the ownership of more luxurious cars even more expensive. This, and fuel duty, has caused drivers to turn to smaller, frugal cars and to reduce their mileage – a market cannily spotted by manufacturers.

The result is that these swivel-eyed Whitehall mandarins have rather painted themselves into a corner. Tax revenues from auto users has dropped significantly and the bigwigs find themselves looking for devious ways to recoup that missing cash. This attitude is made worse by virtue of the fact that this government – pre-election – declared themselves the party to ‘end the war on motorists’. Ha.

What’s worse is that only 25% – just one quarter – of the revenue raised from motorists is actually spent on the roads and in the meantime our cars plunge into potholes only marginally smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater. One chap from the RAC said that he wouldn’t mind so much if they ring-fenced the money for road use only. That’s unfortunately a very naïve view as history has shown. Clearly many hard-pressed drivers would go for the cheaper option and the B roads of Britain would soon become clogged whilst the motorways remained the domain of the wealthier road user – and governments officials.

All of this must pose an additional dilemma when the time comes to buy a car. Many of us would like, say, a Porsche or a BMW M3 if we’re in that fortunate financial position – a Ferrari even. The rest of us may aspire to something that has more prestige than we’ve had in the past. You might as well forget it.

It is illegal to drive above 70mph anywhere. Additionally, there are many things you are not allowed to do in cars – curiously though, you can still do that. Whilst stationary obviously. You must be a driving automaton. Servicing and repairs today are very expensive, as is fuel, VAT and VED. No matter how much of the folding stuff you have, the car-hating killjoys hold sway. Save your money and have some nice holidays away from grey Britain with its grey government. If you still want to have fun in cars when all the rules are stacked against you, the keen driver will probably get more pleasure out of an old Mazda MX5 that’s cheap to buy and run than the latest supercar. Wave goodbye to all that.

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The Hole Truth

Winter is just around the corner. Our roads are preparing themselves for the annual attack on our tyres and suspension systems. We’ve had another political season of evasiveness and obfuscation both locally and nationally and as ever nothing has actually been achieved.

You see – it’s all talk. The reality is that in 2009/10 £9 billion pounds was spent on our roads but you, the motorist, actually coughed up a plump £33 billion in fuel and road tax in the same period. Where’s that gone, then?

If you want proof, here’s a direct quote from transport minister Norman Baker: “Local roads are the responsibility of local highway authorities and they are best placed to use their knowledge and experience to decide how to prioritise funding across the range of services they deliver. This Government is giving councils over £3 billion for road maintenance from 2011/12 to 2014/15, as well as investing £6 million for the highways maintenance efficiency programme to get the most out of investment in this area.” In the greater scheme of things that’s not a lot of money.

There you have it. Having devolved road casino pa natet maintenance to cash-strapped local councils in the past, those in power can have someone else to blame whilst hanging tightly onto the purse strings. The upshot of this is that, unquestionably, our roads are going to get worse rather than better. It is also going to be harder to prove the negligence of others when your car drops a wheel down a hole.

The Department for Transport has recently announced proposals to devolve funding for major transport schemes to new local transport bodies. At the same time, it is also considering similarly devolving bus funding and some responsibility for certain rail services. Seriously, that’s just what we need isn’t it? Another level of mid-level bureaucracy. Is it any wonder that there’s no money left to actually do the job. Overall, it sometimes seems unclear who is responsible for what, who has their fingers on the purse strings and who, at the end of the day, is accountable.

It seems such a straightforward thing to organise. Just let one national agency handle all Britain’s roads. Simple. Someone like the Highways Agency for example; but wait. Isn’t that what they used to do anyway? It is hard to know what to do. In other European countries the people take the streets when they see blatant injustice but here, no doubt, we would be too concerned about missing Coronation Street. In the meantime governments continue to pocket great wads of our hard-earned cash.

Apropos of that, a council in the West of England have just voted themselves an extra two grand on their annual expenses. That’s each. Also, did you know that the amount of money paid to motorists for pothole damage would be enough to repair 100,000 holes. Enjoy your driving.

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Will Road Tax Be Replaced By A One-Off Fee?

Many, many years ago there was a charge made on goods. It was called Purchase Tax. You bought something and its price was augmented with an additional fee. Over the years this has morphed into Value Added Tax whilst all the time gradually increasing the amount of duty added. So what? We’re all used to governments looking at new and sneaky ways of relieving us of even more money so that they don‘t have to cut back on the chocolate Hobnob‘s on the Cabinet table.

One of the other ways they do this is to charge us Vehicle Excise Duty to drive on the roads. As you know all too well, we pay this annually. Currently it is based on CO² emissions. The less polluting your car, the less tax you pay. This is designed to get us into small, clean cars – whether we want to or not – by making costs increasingly expensive to do otherwise.

Well, now some chaps at something called a ‘think-tank’ have come up with another wheeze. Instead of paying road tax (VED) every year, new car buyers should, instead, pay a new one-off purchase tax based on a car’s emissions (in addition to VAT, before you ask). The more polluting the vehicle, the more you pay. Apparently, the present Energy Secretary is looking upon this benignly.

Hang on, you might well say, that doesn’t seem such a bad idea. Pay once and be done with it. Well, in the same way that you casino online would look suspiciously at a pie well beyond its sell-by date, pick it up and have a bit of a sniff.

An example widely quoted is that of a 1.25L petrol Fiesta. This currently costs (average) £9084. Its new price would be £10734. That’s a difference of £1650! The current model emits 124g/km and thus attracts a VED of £100pa. Assuming nothing changes that would mean that, to recover your additional outlay, you would have to keep the car for sixteen and a half years! Realistically, how long does the average car last?

For sports and super cars the purchase tax would be huge. Also, what would happen to used car values? Presumably cars would still need a paper licence to put on display for MOT and insurance purposes. How would that be funded? Feel free to pick even more holes in this ill-though through idea and let us know.

Does this then mean that electric cars would be free of such a tax? Terrific – or rather it would be if it were not for the EU ruling that says we must switch off our coal-fired power stations next year, potentially resulting in power outages as the remaining system fails to cope. Where will electric cars be then? Let us hope they think this through.

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